French Lick Resort Casino Officially Opens Its Doors to First Visitors

Much-Anticipated Rebirth of Historic Resort Kicks Off With VIP Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony; Casino Opens to General Public Nov. 3, Pending Indiana Gaming Commission Approval

FRENCH LICK, Ind., Oct. 31, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- The official first dollar slid into a slot machine this morning at the French Lick Casino, signaling the official opening of the long-awaited French Lick Resort Casino and a renaissance to this once thriving resort community.

French Lick Resort Casino owners and executives, along with community leaders and local citizens, christened the 84,000-square-foot building with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The first dollar was played by Jackie (Carnes) Kendall, daughter of the late Jack Carnes, former leader of the "Orange Shirts," who fought tirelessly for a casino in Orange County. She played the dollar on behalf of the Carnes family, which includes Connie (Carnes) Cox and John Carnes.

Following the first dollar played, eager gamers filed into the casino to try their luck on one of the 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games, including blackjack, roulette and craps, or in the 12-table poker room.

The casino will close at midnight tonight for a mandatory audit by the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC). Following IGC approval, the casino will reopen and guests can then enjoy 24-hour gaming, 365 days a year. French Lick Resort Casino anticipates opening to the public on Nov. 3, which includes the official opening of the French Lick Springs Hotel.

"We are all tremendously excited to introduce our new casino to the public," said Chris Leininger, French Lick Casino general manager. "It will truly be the only Las Vegas-style gaming facility in southern Indiana. Coupled with the quality of our historic resort facilities and new Event Center, our guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a full-service resort destination unlike any other destination in the Midwest."

The casino is just one component of the $382 million resort restoration and casino development project in southern Indiana. Visitors today also got their first glimpse of the historic French Lick Springs Hotel. The 443-room hotel, which was originally erected in 1901, features a 27,000-square-foot full-service spa, salon and health club; 36,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 14,000-square-foot Windsor Ballroom; a new pool complex and fitness center; eight new eateries; and a six-lane bowling alley.

"At the very moment our scissors cut the ribbon this morning, a new era in gaming and hospitality began," said Scott Spurlock, French Lick Springs Hotel general manager. "The French Lick Resort Casino has officially embarked on our quest to provide a memorable experience each and every time our guests travel through the doors."

Today's events mark an extreme highpoint in the landmark project that is one part historic restoration, one part economic revitalization. Ground was broken on the project in August of last year, as area residents celebrated what they anticipate will be renewed vitality to their once booming resort community.

"The opening of French Lick Resort Casino marks a major milestone in bringing this crucial economic redevelopment project to fruition for the people of Orange County and beyond," said Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group, Inc. "When completed in 2007, the full French Lick Resort Casino project -- with its world-class golfing and other recreational opportunities, state-of-the-art hotel and convention center facilities -- along with the fully restored West Baden Springs Hotel, will truly fulfill the vision the Cook Group and the Cook family have had for this area for more than 10 years. We want to thank all the state and local agencies and elected officials, Rep. Jerry Denbo, and the people of Orange County for supporting this project and working with us to make this the Midwest's premier destination resort."

Robert L. Lauth Jr., president of French Lick Resort Casino and chairman of Lauth Group, Inc., echoed those sentiments. "We are absolutely thrilled that this historic day is finally here, and I want to thank the thousands of people who helped make it happen. All of us at Lauth look forward to continuing to make this fabulous resort even better and better in the years to come," Lauth said.

As Ferguson alluded to, the other component of the French Lick Resort Casino development will be West Baden Springs Hotel, which is scheduled to open in spring 2007. This National Historic Landmark has been dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and features what was once the world's largest free-span dome. The hotel will provide guests unparalleled luxury with 250 completely refurbished guest rooms and suites, a new spa, natatorium and health club, and a variety of exciting new restaurants.

French Lick Resort Casino also opened the first of its three golf courses last month, as it unveiled the completely restored Donald Ross Course at French Lick, which famously hosted the 1924 PGA Championship where Walter Hagen was victorious.

Adding to what is sure to be a golf enthusiast's paradise, the newly designed, 18-hole championship Pete Dye Course at French Lick is slated to open in spring 2008. The nine-hole Tom Bendelow Course at French Lick will open in spring 2007 and will feature a state-of-the-art practice facility and world-class golf academy.

French Lick Resort Casino is a $382 million historic restoration and casino development project that includes the French Lick Springs Hotel, the new French Lick Casino and the West Baden Springs Hotel (opening spring 2007). This premier resort and casino destination will feature 693 guest rooms and suites; an 84,000-square-foot casino with a 42,000-square-foot, single-level gaming floor; 45 holes of golf, including the fully restored 1917-designed Donald Ross Course at French Lick and the new, 18-hole Pete Dye Course at French Lick (opening spring 2008); two full-service spas with a combined 36 treatment rooms totaling 41,000 square feet; and an array of dining and entertainment options. For more information, please visit or call 1-888-MyHideaway (888-694-4332).

The ownership group of French Lick Resort Casino comprises Lauth Resorts & Casino, LLC, an affiliate of Lauth Group, Inc., and Orange County Holdings, Inc., an organization formed by the Cook Group family of companies to fund charitable and philanthropic purposes within the state. French Lick Resort Casino is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International.

Lauth Group, Inc.

Lauth is one of the nation's leading development and construction firms. Over the past 30 years, Lauth has developed more than $3 billion worth of projects throughout the United States and is a licensed general contractor in 49 states. With headquarters in Indianapolis and offices in Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, Orlando, Phoenix and Pittsburgh, Lauth develops all types of commercial properties. For more information, visit

Cook Group, Inc.

The world's largest privately held medical device manufacturer with international headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., COOK(r) ( is a leading designer, manufacturer and global distributor of minimally invasive medical device technology for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Cook Group also owns and operates real estate, retail management and travel services businesses. Through its real estate development and management company, CFC, Inc., the Cook Group family of companies has placed a special emphasis on preserving architecturally significant buildings in Bloomington and south central Indiana.

Benchmark Hospitality International

Benchmark Hospitality International, an independent hospitality management company based in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, operates resorts, conference centers, hotels and condominium resorts both domestically and internationally. For locations of Benchmark Hospitality properties and for additional information, visit Benchmark's Website at


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